• Stephanie Ashton

Don’t Stop the Party

Black Eyed Peas, The Beginning, 2011


This blog retells the story of the famous apartment photoshoot fiasco that happened this time last April 2019. A number of dear friends have requested that I write about this event as it involves some well-known and much-loved characters, in addition to being something of a fantasy for some of my readers. For myself, it is just another trophy in my cabinet of outrageous tgirl antics.


In fact, it never fails to astound me just how divergent my female life is today from the rather strict existence I had as a male. Yes, as a male I had many adventures and lived all over the world, but it was all so serious and disciplined. I was always in control. Meanwhile my female life is exciting, filled with friendships, living life to the full, and often with no brakes whatsoever. Indeed, to say my life today is spontaneous and lacking control is something of an understatement. Like so many dressers, I have a mega problem with shopping and am addicted to buying ‘all-things-female.’ When my bank manager hears I am going dress shopping he puts the Bank of England on alert that his financial institution may collapse. When I said I was asset stripping when I left Denmark it involved cutting down from 350 to 280 dresses… as a result I simply have nothing to wear now!


Interestingly, there is no greater sign of the changes in my personality and approach to life than the state of my handbag. I do not need a shrink to tell me that my gender alignment is female; I just need to look at the pure anarchy in my shopping handbag. Where once I used to roll my eyes at the state of my ex-partners handbag, I now find a rammed handbag so de riguer. Indeed, whilst I stood at the till in Topshop rifling through my handbag for my purse last month, it occurred to me that my current behaviour was so far removed from 10 years ago I simply cannot recognise who I used to be. I had a bag full of make-up, brushes, purse, small umbrella, shopping flats, cards for shops and services, coupons, vouchers, and some boys telephone number scrawled on a napkin…what?! He was at the next table to me at lunch and was cute, you know :D


Shopping bag...rammed full before I even leave the house!

So, just in case you needed proof of my female credentials there we have it. Now let us get on with the business of telling this story. Where shall I begin?


The Set-Up


In January 2019, Anna de Winter and myself met up in Copenhagen for the first time in person and we instantly got on like a house on fire. Having a shared passion for make-up, themed shoots and general good humour and kindness we soon discovered great friendship in each other. So, naturally in the coming weeks and months we would make many plans to meet up for trips away, photoshoots, partying and a little holiday together. Hang on…a holiday?!


In conversation with Anna it had become clear she was keen to have an extended opportunity to experience her true self and it quickly became a scheme that we would go together to my favourite playground for a week – Old London town. Naturally, we quickly contacted our mutual dear friend Cindy at Boys Will Be Girls and started a conversation about a duo photoshoot over two days. Then shortly thereafter, a three-way conversation developed with fabulous Aussie bint Tina Martini who announced she was coming to London in April and did we want to meet up. Excellent! Let us all meet up to party and hey, let us do a three way shoot together!


What could possibly go wrong wondering around like this?

Now if you have read my advice on multi-girl photoshoots in the blog Girls on Film, you will note that I am personally not in favour of these events. At best, two girls work okay if they know each other and already have some chemistry. Whilst these shoots are great fun on the day for all the reasons described in that blog, if you are results orientated then the lack of a good number of quality images is often a disappointment (that is without resorting to lots of hours on photoshop cutting one girls head out of picture X and adding it into picture Y.) In my experience these events are just too difficult to plan, take too long in make-up, have too many opportunities for one of three girls to screw up their make-up…the list of difficulties goes on and on... before you ‘get into’ Pizza delivery boys as experienced in the Manchester fiasco.


So, did I follow my own advice? Of course not! I epitomise do as I say, whilst I do something completely different. Yes, I blithely ignored all my own torturous past experience with absolute certainty it would be better this time. Doing the same thing twice and expecting different results is a sign of madness is it not?! Regardless, Anna, Tina and I went headlong into planning a super complicated photoshoot in an apartment that involved multiple costumes and poses. Heaven help us.


Looks easy together...it really is not. Best shots are often the relaxed ones

The Hook


In the coming days and weeks Anna, Tina and myself agreed on costumes, hunted the internet at length for all sorts of props and had endless excited conversations about the event. Having agreed on all the details we then got onto logistics and this is where things got interesting.


As Tina was travelling with work and had other plans, she opted to stay elsewhere so Anna and myself agreed to get an apartment together for the week. We had already decided that a really nice apartment near to Cindy would give us the best opportunity for getting some really nice pictures and so that was agreed. And this is where it all starts to go a bit pear shaped. In my infinite wisdom, I volunteered to arrange the accommodation for this venture and booked a super lovely Air B’n’B apartment in Bermondsey. Now when I look back on that week in London, the stupidity of the outrageously over ambitious schedule I put together pales into insignificance when I consider the stupidity of booking an Air B’n’B for a photoshoot. And why is that? Because in the small print the majority of apartments state “no parties, gatherings or photography.”


Pictures of the apartment to set the scene

Now I must confess that in the weeks running up to the event, I did notice the horrible little no photography clause in the Air B’n’B booking and remember discussing it with Anna. However, given the prevalence of Scandi thinking at that time…we just decided to ignore it and hope for the best. This is a very Scandi response to risk by the way; in Denmark I learned that I was much happier when I followed everyone else and just ignored risks until such time as they became a reality. Besides, who would see us on the top floor of an apartment? It was not as if Anna was going to walk around outside on the Balcony in her fetish wear with size F breasts on display.


So, with excitement we approached the big event and just in case there was a free minute in the schedule I continued to cram in more and more meetings with dear friends, theatre trips, eating out and personal dressing appointments. At this point we probably needed divine intervention.


Our Country Wives front cover

The Sting


Finally, we arrived at Monday 8th April and we all set off to London with much excitement and high hopes. Anna arrived at our apartment first and was quite excited to find it was lovely, being exactly as shown online. My journey was not so much fun as the plane from Copenhagen to London went “technical” and I arrived later that night. However, once we were assembled the mood was like the night before Christmas. We talked over the plan and on day one of the shoot Anna and me would be together with Cindy. Tina would then join us the following day for a three-girl shoot. Heaven help us.


The following morning as we had breakfast I looked out of the window at a slightly glum looking skyline, and the rooftop terraces immediately opposite our window. Given my general state of excitement this did not, for one second, trigger any sense of alarm or concern. After all, who cares what we are up to in our apartment? Besides, Cindy arrived shortly thereafter, and we were so happy to see her we quickly forgot about the outside world. Vicki would be joining us shortly but had other things to do before coming along to the apartment.


Do you think this might upset the...oh who cares...

We happily agreed that Anna would go into make-up first and I went off and pottered around elsewhere. Once Anna was finished, I then had Cindy work her magic and I was ready for action. At this point Vicki arrived and made something of a prophetic statement and it went something like this “Do you not think you should shut the blinds if you are going to stroll around with those things?” And by those things, Vicki was referring to Annas F cup breast plate which she had spent the entire time fondling whilst parading around in fetish wear in front of the window. Now even at this stage I was not thinking much harm could come from our appearance in a private apartment and did not think that much about it. How wrong could I be!


So, we merrily set off with the photoshoot and it sort of immediately went off track. Following some set-up issues, we started in the living room and did a number of shots and poses as shown below. It all seemed to be going a bit flat in the living room so deciding we were done there, we changed and relocated to the bedroom to start taking pictures in there. And this is when events really got interesting.


Dressed to Distress (the woman across the way)

Cindy was busy taking pictures of Anna and myself on the bed when I noticed that Vicki had disappeared and had been gone for a while. I vaguely thought I heard the apartment door open and close but as Vicki was busy with other tasks, I just assumed she had left again. And then the horrifying moment came! Vicki opened the bedroom door, walked into the bedroom closing the door behind her. and in a totally deadpan voice said something along the lines of “erm, the rental agent is here, and she wants you to leave immediately. Apparently, you have broken the terms of the rental.”


Now my immediate response was to laugh. Vicki is very funny and when she made this statement in such a deadpan voice, I naturally assumed she was pulling our leg. But she was not! Now at this point in time we had got off the bed and were arranged in the room roughly as shown in the sketch below. I said, “C’mon Vicki, very funny but for real?” Then Vicki’s response was still deadpan “no, she came to the door and I just about managed to get her to come in. Then she just wanted to come straight in here to see you.”


My word...that looks scares even myself

Before much more could be said, the rental agent, Angie, opened the door and appeared in the room looking very flustered. In her opening salvo, Angie repeated word for word what Vicki had said whilst we tried to make sense of this flustered yet attractive middle-aged American woman. Repeating again that we were to leave immediately, I asked Angie on what grounds we were being evicted on day 1 of 6-day rental to which she informed us “we have been told you are having a party and use of photography.”


Now whilst I joked above about Anna strolling around displaying herself in fetish wear at the window, I was hardly an angel in this regard either. Dressed as per the pictures below, we had shot quite a raunchy set of pictures at the living room patio window…which in all likelihood the woman on the rooftop terrace across the way had seen. I can well imagine that two tgirls appearing to get it on for the camera had raised the pulse. No doubt, this was a neighbour nursing a grudge for the goings on in the apartment and had maybe bent Angies ear more than once about what she had seen across the way.


I joke that Anna caused 'afront' but maybe I had a part to play in that as well...

What now followed was as skilful as it was comical. Angie demanded to know who, and all was in the apartment. Now at this point, as per the plot below, Anna was standing just out of sight of Angie. However, I was confused because from my viewing perspective I simply could not understand how Angie could not see Anna…or even sense that there was someone there? Anyway, I just replied “I am alone.” Meanwhile Anna was standing about 3 feet away in full fetish wear :O


Now Angie was irate and confused in equal measure. Then the penny dropped with me. I had booked the apartment in my boy name and Angie had been expecting to come round and find boy-me with a woman maybe…but not girl-me in white lingerie! Angie asked again if I was alone and who I was by name so she could figure out what was going on. I replied “I am transgendered model” before giving her my male and female name. At this point the penny dropped for Angie but she is still not happy with the situation, at all.


positions in the bedroom. Angie is the camera, ironically

Now at this point Anna is standing like a statue and Cindy starts to pack up her things. Now it is time for Vicki and myself go to work on Angie. You see for all the protests from Angie, she is clearly still holding back a bit and there is an opening for turning the situation around. For anyone who is in Sales, you will know exactly what I mean when I say that Vicki and myself “saw the gap” and went for it.


Vicki very calmly started by saying “look we are just friends who are round to do make-up take and a few pictures but” pointing at Cindy says, “but you can see we were just leaving.” Angie still looks less than convinced and asks again about the pictures and to this Vicki says, “well she is a famous transgender model so yeah we come round and do her make-up.” Now at this point, inside I am dying to laugh out loud and make great fun of Vicki’s proclamation of my credentials! But now is definitely not the time to pass comment on that.


Anna with the famous transmodel, according to Vicki. I am dining out on that comment until the end of time

The atmosphere in the bedroom is tense and not unlike a Mexican stand-off. Vicki suggests we move through to the living room and have a calm conversation. This is a brilliant move as it takes us out of the lingerie / bedroom setting and also gives Anna a chance to escape to her en-suite, where she will hide for the rest of this story!


En-route to the living room, I put on something to cover up my stockings and suspenders but am otherwise still in full ensemble as we set about winning the rental agent around. Angie continues to demand that we still need to leave the apartment as we “might have parties” but I start by calmly making the point that there is no way I will be sitting in an apartment alone when I am famous out on the town. Did I smirk saying that? Let’s hope not.


I went on to describe that I had tickets for the theatre and arrangements to be out every night of the week. Now Angie does not initially like this response but demands that I show her proof of these outings which I promptly do so by showing her all my bookings on my phone. Somewhat fortuitously my 2018 Stephanie Ashton photo album was lying on the living room table, and Vicki picks it up and says “look, this is her portfolio, just like I was telling you.” Now Angie is starting to come around. Brilliant!


My 2018 album on sale now! lol

By this point, the photoshoot was definitely finished and we were working hard just to stay in the apartment. In the background Cindy was super efficiently packing up and went about it so quietly that it would have impressed a ninja. As the conversation continued, Angie was starting to come around a bit at a time but now she admitted that there had been problems in the apartment previously and simply could not let us stay. However, she was not saying it with much conviction and no longer had any real valid reasons for wanting to throw us out. Now I saw “the gap” and went for it.


I said “So Angie, what have we been doing wrong? Took a few pictures, who doesn’t? Are you going to ban iPhone in the apartment? And you can see I am not going to have any parties…why would I? I want to go out on the town and see my friends when I am in London. No disrespect intended; I did not come to London to sit in this flat alone.” Angie replies “I am sorry but I just don’t like it” giving me the opening to now play the big T card. I replied “okay, so you want me to leave because I am Trans?”


Just as well Angie did not come back when we did Maids and Mistresses selfies later lol

Bullseye! I had waited for the right opportunity to play the T card and now I had laid down Four Queens…so to speak. Angie immediately looked ashen faced and said “Oh no! It is nothing like that. That is not the issue.” Brilliant. Angie is pro-LGBT and looks upset at the accusation. Now looking flustered Angie goes on to say “Okay, show me your passport so I know you are the person who booked the apartment.”


Now comes the silver lining to the whole situation. I went off to get my passport and when I showed it to Angie she said “Wow that is some transformation. You look amazing by the way.” Awesome.


Aftermath


Assisted with savvy Vicki and Cindy we managed to keep the apartment and it was much talked about later on. Needless to say, that was the end of photoshoots for that trip. Immediately after Cindy and Vicki left the apartment, we had a long discussion with Tina, but all agreed that we were done as it was too difficult to find somewhere else to shoot at such short notice. Whilst it was disappointing not to have the opportunity to get pictures with Tina whilst she was in town, the events of the day had killed it for Anna and myself.


So, did it dampen the mood for the trip? Not in the slightest! That night Anna and I got changed, went to St James rooftop for cocktails before going to the Theatre, and then meeting Sarah Lewis. You see, if you live to fight another day, then live and enjoy it!



Overall, it was a fantastic week together in London and we had many more adventures. We were out partying every night and met so many people who have become dear friends…Lyndsey, Maya, Sarah, Tiffany, Yanira, and of course Tina.


Best table in the house at the Oxo tower

Two friends I love so so much !

A few weeks later I received an email from Air B’n’B advising that the rental agent had left a comment on my profile. With much in-trepidation I logged onto my profile online. My face must have been a picture as I sat at work looking bemused at the lovely review that Angie had left for me! Well, if you cover the towels and linen in make-up then it is only decent to put them through the washing machine and it paid off judging this review.



Final Remarks


The Apartment Fiasco is one of my all-time great escape stories but also had some serious learning points which is the only reason I have finally committed this story to my blog. This situation was the first time I genuinely thought “I could handle myself in a work situation presenting as a woman.’ The fact that I was dressed and presenting in a vulnerable way (white lingerie for heaven’s sake!) did not in any way diminish my resolve, ability or cause a loss of focus. This was a very important experience for me as it successfully set me on the line of thinking that I could easily enter the workplace as a woman with no internal conflict or concern whatsoever.


On a different note I will never do multi girl shoots again, it was going to be carnage and even the shoot that Anna and myself did we later agreed needed a lot more planning. And finally, when Vicki suggests that you do something, it is probably a good idea to listen to her because she knows what she is talking about!


And did I follow this new wisdom? No. Not at all. One month later, on a recommendation from Yanira, another crazy Anna and Steffie adventure would unfold when we went to Madrid for a duo photoshoot with fashionista Dafni Coco and super lovely Sara Perez in in Madrid. But that is an entirely different story and blog.


In any event, I hope that this little ditty has brought some light relief and if nothing else, serves to remind us that being at home in isolation is maybe the best thing for me lol


Steffie

xx


Take care everybody! xxx